What employers look for when recruiting graduates

Although Uni is all about studying  (and partying – let’s keep it real here), it’s never a bad idea to think about what kind of things employers are looking for in graduates, and building up the appropriate skillset so that you’re ready when you have your degree in hand – ready to hit the workforce with vengeance.

A new survey aimed at finding out what employers are looking for when recruiting has listed ‘attitude’ as the top attribute employers consider in job candidates. In fact, employers place attitude above qualifications and experience as the most important attribute when looking for prospective employees.

Around 100 businesses from the Thames Valley participated in a Skills, Education Recruitment Survey by Hays Specialist Recruitment, Reading College and the Twenties Club. The survey ran from November 2013 to January 2014 and asked participating companies questions on the importance of skills, education and recruitment and how they embed them in their business, as well as key questions around skills and connecting investment and employment.

A summary of the research findings reads as follows:

·         Around three quarters (73 per cent) of employers rank attitude as the top attribute when hiring new candidates.

·         Nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of companies find it difficult to find staff with the right skills and attributes.

·         More than half stated growth was the main driving force behind recruitment.

·         Hiring businesses are primarily looking to recruit junior and mid-manager roles.

·         Nearly two thirds of companies feel young people do not have the right skills for business.

·         Over two thirds (68 per cent) believe apprenticeships better prepare students for work life than university.

·         Vast majority (89 per cent) of businesses believe collaboration with education is beneficial in increasing skills.

The research suggests that as well as a good attitude, understanding business (more specifically the company with whom you are attending an interview) is essential to being hired.

It’s also important to note that companies feel that many graduates don’t have the right skills for business, which is a problem and definitely something to consider when thinking about that first job role.

The question is: what can you do to better prepare yourself for the work place after Uni?

Businesses surveyed believe that apprenticeships are one way to circumvent lack of skill and knowledge, and prepare graduates for the work place – so that’s one solution.

Of companies who participated in the research, eighty per cent wanted colleges and universities to work better with business to help young people develop work-ready skills, with over a third (37 per cent) suggesting this could be achieved through better industry knowledge and surveys. ‘Better industry knowledge’, although seemingly vague,  is something that you can acquire off your own initiative if the place where you’re studying has not got a programme in place – do your own research, talk to people ‘in the business’, visit relevant companies and chat to employees and definitely try and hook up an apprenticeship.

Also remember that ‘attitude’ comprises an apparent desire to learn and develop new skills. Mark Sheldon, Managing Director of Hays Specialist Recruitment, comments: “Hiring for learning aptitude is a growing trend. We are finding that the ability to learn new skills is a greater priority than hiring for current expertise and experience.” – Definitely something to bear in mind as you job hunt!

The idea seems to be to develop ‘work-ready’ graduates with aptitude. Show initiative, ambition and a desire to grow your university-acquired knowledge into a practical skillset (even if it means little or no pay in apprentice-form to begin with), and you’re on your way to a first job.